The MilTeenChat™ smartphone app is designed to help teenagers with parents in the military create a community, where teens with similar experiences can provide support to each other and share knowledge. Support is also available through educational materials and coping tools based on the Teaching Kids to Cope (TKC) program developed by faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. Regular interactions in the app are rewarded in order to motivate users to interact with the app and each other. The MilTeenChat™ smartphone app allows users to communicate using text messages and digital photographs in a manner similar to Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. Military teenagers who use the app can create a profile, share personal stories, and find resources to increase self efficacy in interactions with family, friends, and at school. To address social network safety concerns, the MilTeenChat™ app integrates monitoring functionality provided by Bark Technologies to scan conversations and content. Bark's application programming interfaces (APIs) detect and provide automatic alerts for signs of cyberbullying, depression, online predators, adult content, and more. MilTeenChat™ requires contact information and permission from the non-deployed parent of the user. The parent assumes responsibility for the teenager's use of the MilTeenChat app and will receive automatic alerts if potential issues are detected.
On May 20, 2018, the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and the Center for Military Medicine Research hosted a launch of the app. Thus far, there has been positive feedback from initiatives with small focus groups, further emphasizing the need for this type of resource. In moving forward, the immediate task at hand is to now build more collaborative opportunities with other military child groups, as well as to offer summer leadership camp opportunities for MilTeenChat™ peer ambassadors to provide a strong foundation for the application.
MilTeenChat™ was created by the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and the Center for Military Medicine Research and in partnership with the Military Childrens Collaborative Group, Pt Pal, Bark Technologies, and military teens themselves! The app is funded by the Infinite Hero Foundation.